Context? What Context?

I heard a sermon recently based on Numbers 13. The point drawn from the passage was, “Don’t be afraid to do what God calls you to do.” We were encouraged to step into the challenges and joys of being sons (and daughters) of God.

It was an upbeat, positive message. But the context of these verses has to do with bloodshed, not blessing.

The Israelites were to go into Canaan, kill the inhabitants and occupy the land in fulfillment of a promise given to Abraham centuries earlier. And when they were too afraid to tackle the job they were sent into the desert for 40 years until a new generation was willing to obey.

Speaking of Abraham, his willingness to sacrifice his son is held up as the epitome of faith; never mind the trauma it caused poor Isaac that his dad would murder him to please their God.

Then there are the walls of Jericho, knocked flat by faith, opening the way for the wholesale slaughter of the city’s men, women and children. Another victory of faith; one we teach our kids about in Sunday school. Along with Noah and the ark, a delightful yarn about the first apocalypse and the death of countless people. (It’s okay, they were bad people.)

What Tennyson said about nature being “red in tooth and claw” could certainly apply to faith, at least the Old Testament variety.

Does it bother anyone else when glittering principles are lifted from grisly events and sanitized into spiritual platitudes?


2 thoughts on “Context? What Context?

  1. Let’s not forget the famous David and Goliath account! It was very cool of David to face his fears and with God’s help, take out a menacing giant with a well placed stone to the forehead. But did he have to whack off a dead guy’s head? Wasn’t that a bit of R rated overkill?

    As you suggest, teachings from the Bible are probably best presented in context. The consequences of sin are horrific, but God overcomes.

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